Dedicated to Sergay Korolev Pavlovich, one of the many that have known the fields of the GULag, one of the many that in spite of everything have made great the Soviet Union.
In this post we’ll have necessarily the need to touch a topic that has been causing so many heated debates, sometimes in such a harsh way to get to the limit of decency.
I therefore kindly invite anyone who is no willing to follow the rules dictated by a civil living and good manners (the real ones, we can do without the formal version of it) just to walk away and intervene in some other topic.
Sotheby’s catalogues dedicated to the Russian Space History describes the objects put up for auction in 1993 and 1996. These catalogues are extremely interesting and should be read from top to bottom. You can easily buy them on e-bay, the first one at around 15-18 Euros and the second at 30-35. Therefore they are not rare nor unobtainable.
Sotheby's promoters revealed how they had a really happy intuition regarding the organization of two different auctions dedicated to the history of Soviet cosmology. They took advantage of the new possibilities offered by the change of regime and as never before exploited the situation beating everybody else.
In this present post I cannot do anything more than to present only a few pages describing watches utilized by Soviet astronauts (pdf files contain all the pages referring to the watches). But, I repeat, I really suggest the direct and integral vision of the two catalogues, that are so full of details and documentation to make them more interesting than so many books dedicated to spatial enterprise.
Watches are just a small part of the two volumes story.
I’m not really aware of what kind of complete vision, clear and at the same time very simple, was there before 1993 regarding watches used by Soviet astronauts. And I also don’t know how much substantially has been added later on, not referring to images or redundant information, I leave the last word to the experts.
For sure whatever was reported on the catalogues went round quite a lot in our circles till has become a steady part of our common knowledge. And one of it has even been reported by the Levenberg books, which is limited to quick information.
Without polemizing, I would like to point out that very often, like in this case, the source has been omitted, and it’s my opinion that the great majority of Russian-lovers don’t know either.
If there is a sense in my posts, it’s just to invite people to go directly to some of the sources known to us, in order to make up their own opinion. In this way discussions should increasingly coming from very well supported reasoning, backed up by good arguments rather than convictions based only on direct and irreplaceable observations and/or on something heard, passed from one forum to another one.
As I said before, you will not find here new information or clamorous scoops, but there will be at least two points that should be taken into consideration every time the discussion gets on to the topic of what kind of watch Leonov was wearing (if he had one) during his cosmic walk.
It’s good to consider that we’re talking about two auction catalogues and whatever is not included it doesn’t mean that it did not exist.
Particularly we do not refer to the watch worn by Gagarin, while the other three watches he received as a gift are there.
The watch worn by Leonov during his walk outside the spatial module it’s not there either (if he ever had one). (I’m only writing this for my own fun, thinking of the face of whoever believes that Leonov had to wear one).
This means that Sotheby’s people have not identified them, no more no less.
As I mentioned before, there are two points I wish to highlight in order to get to know if they have been denied or disputed.
These two points are coming out from object n. 72 (1993 catalogue), a Sekonda watch worn by Vladimir A. Shalatov during his Soyuz 10 mission (23-25 April 1971). Shalatov participated at the missions with Soyuz 4 (1968) and Soyuz 8 (1969), and I’m aware that he wrote some books, and there is at least one biography, but until now I haven’t had the pleasure to see them.
In this Sekonda presentation is reported the text of the autograph note (Shalatov’s) that was coming with it and where the watch is described as a test watch. There is also a note, that I believe to be the editor’s, stating that “During earlier missions, ordinary-production watches were used by the cosmonauts, but the stresses of flight - changing air pressure and high G-forces caused frequent failures. The cosrnonaus tipically took three or four watches with them, in thc hope of having a serviceable backup. The present SEKONDA watch was a special production, intended to be of greater reliability. Because there was not suflicient demand for these higher-quality watches, the Soviets subsequently purchased Swiss-made Omega watches for the cosmonauts"
At this point we can deduct two things:
1) the watches were exposed to a very high stress, unbearable for normal watches
2) the astronauts used to carry along more than one watch.
As I stated before, I don’t know if all this has been successively denied or refuted, but if this is not the case I really don’t understand the meaning of such discussions on the watch worn by Leonov in 1965.
The question is not just if he was wearing a Strela or not. But….
How many watches did he carry with him? Which one did he have on at the moment of the sky-walk? And most of all, how did the watch resist to the test (whatever it was)?
If he worn a watch.
In David Scott- Alexei Leonov: Two sides of the moon, ed. 2004, Leonov write "As i pulled myself back towards the airclock I heard Pasha [Belyayev] talking to me once more. 'It's time to come back in'. I realised i had been floating free un space for over ten minutes."
Leonov had actually need a watch? [Belyayev] talking to me once more. 'It's time to come back in'. I realised i had been floating free un space for over ten minutes."
A picture from "Two sides...."
Pavel Belyayev (which remained at the controls) worn a brand-new and newly designed NII Chasprom, number 020 (item nr.42, Catalogue 1993), or so it seems according to the handwritten statements of the widow.
If this had Belyayev NII specially designed, because Leonov had to go with an uncertain Strela? perhaps one worth the other? or maybe they trusted more the Strela?
In 1968, during the Soyuz3 mission, a Slava rattrappante (item 51, Catalogue 1993) was used for various scientific experiments and the same mission itself was a test to see how the Slava would react to the lack of weight and gravity force. This is a sign that they were having doubts regarding their own watches. By the way, our Slava worked perfectly and was used for other missions as well.
Again in 1974 Arttyukhin worn, on his initiative, an Omega (Soyuz 14 3-19 Luglio 1974) and they had also two Sekonda, one NII and a Slava Rattrappante (oggetti 77-78-78A-79-80m Catalogo 1993).
Again in 1977, Gorbakto (coming from the Soyuz5 experience), talking about his Sekonda (item 117, Soyouz24) describes it as projected and specially developed by the NII (Институтом Часовой Промышленности: Nauchno-issledovateliskim Institutom Chasovoĭ Promyshlennosti, Scientific Research Institute for the Watch Industry). This Institute, having projected and built electronic watches among other things, was responsible for the certification of ship’s chronometers.
I think that we could share the dream of putting our hands on the archives of this institute.
And the Strela watches had already been produced since 20 years! Maybe it’s not daring to say that the watches used for spatial missions were no common mass produced Strelas, at least for a certain period.
Ok. What we said till now is only an example of how stimulating the reading of the two catalogues could be. Therefore I leave you with the reading of the pages I have copied (unfortunately they’re not very good as it was difficult to open them properly).
The items are numbered, but I have reproduced the pages in full anyway. In the post some parts are reported but not all, downloaded in pdf.
You can also find below two pages gathering the photos of most part of the watches: substantially the watches used in the Soyuz 10 and 14 missions. Please do not get shocked if you find some Omegas. The Soviet used them anyway, and I don’t believe that whatever was said and reported up to now about the Omegas is the result of some conspiracy meant to diminish the Soviet watchmaking.
Russian Space History 1993.pdf
Russian Space History 1996.pdf
The first picture doesn’t come from the catalogues, I got it from a Russian book. Who’s going to guess which is the astronaut, the mission, what was he wearing on his wrist, and most of all, why on the wrist?
I cannot give a Strela watch as a reward because I don’t have one (to give as reward), and furthermore the questions are so simple, particularly the answer to the last question can be found on the these pages.
Russian Space History, 1993
Russian Space History, 1996